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Board of Education approves money for counselors, cops

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The Arizona State Board of Education voted Monday to expedite a process that will award $20 million to schools to hire new counselors and cops.

Board members had previously balked at immediately spending the new one-time appropriation lawmakers approved in the budget – grants have been awarded on a three-year cycle, and by law, the next round of applications for school safety funding weren’t due until April 15, 2020.

But the board worked with Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman and Gov. Doug Ducey, and the Arizona School Counselors Association, to come up with a new plan that will begin awarding funds for school safety officers, school counselors and social workers as early as October.

The new process ensures that all, not some, public and charter schools will be able to apply for a piece of the $20 million now available.

The Department of Education will begin accepting grant applications on September 16. Schools will have until September 27 to apply by specifying how the grant will be spent, be it on SROs or counselors, and why the funding is needed.

By late October, the Board of Education will begin reviewing the applications and approving grants for specific schools. As soon as a grant is approved, schools are authorized to begin the hiring process to get new school safety staff on campus as soon as possible.

Another round of applications will be accepted in the spring, beginning on March 1, 2020.

Any unused funds will be retained by the Department of Education to be distributed in future grant-making periods in the next two to three years.

Hoffman praised the board for working closely with the governor and her own staff to ensure that the $20 million goes to schools immediately – otherwise the funding may have gone unspent until the 2020-2021 school year.

“I applaud the Governor, lawmakers, and advocates for prioritizing these issues during the last legislative session, and I look forward to finding ways to build on this work in the months ahead,” Hoffman said in a statement. “Our students are counting on us to ensure their mental health and physical safety – we cannot let them down.”

Ducey, in an effort to ensure that the school safety funding made it to schools this year, tweeted that he offered the assistance of the Department of Administration’s Office of Grants and Federal Resources, and the Government Transformation Office within Ducey’s administration. 

“This is an important first step,” Ducey tweeted, but “more needs to be done. We want these dollars to reach schools as fast as possible. And we stand ready to work with [Superintendent Hoffman], [the State Board of Education, [Arizona School Counselors Association] and legislators to get more counselors in schools where they can make a difference.”

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